Originally created 08/05/99

Schools want to begin year on right path



New rules, school times and buildings will greet Columbia County students when they return to school Aug. 23.

Tommy Price -- who is beginning his first school year as superintendent -- said students should anticipate higher standards of dress.

"We are expecting to have a systemwide dress code this year," Mr. Price said, adding that it's the first time the school system has considered a systemwide policy.

A tentative policy -- which addresses baggy clothing and adverse messages on clothing -- has been developed. The school board is expected to vote on it Tuesday. As currently written, the dress code requires that shirts and blouses that are designed to be tucked in -- including T-shirts -- are tucked into pants or skirts. And waistbands of pants, skirts and shorts must be fitted at the waist. The same would apply to belts and straps.

The proposed dress code does not allow pants that are baggy, frayed at the bottom or drag the floor. It prohibits hats (unless worn for religious reasons), bandannas and mini-skirts. Skirts and shorts must be long enough to reach the knee area. The tentative dress code also lists halter tops, spaghetti straps, tank tops and muscle shirts as unacceptable attire and prohibits athletic shorts, cut-off jeans and sweat pants, short-shorts and running shorts.

Cheerleading uniforms would only be allowed during pep rallies and games.

One elementary school -- Euchee Creek -- will begin the year with a voluntary school-uniform policy.

School board members are still debating what safety measures to implement.

Proposals include photo identification cards for employees and students in fourth through 12th grades as well as random metal-detector checks. The school board has not decided whether to have armed officers patrolling campuses.

In a change to the code of conduct, students who are caught selling drugs on campus, carrying guns, explosives and other materials that violate the Guns Free School Act will no longer be able to attend the county's alternative school -- Crossroads Academy. Those students will face suspension or expulsion.

In the new school year, high school and elementary students will get a few more minutes to get to school on time. The starting time for high schools this year is 7:25 a.m. -- 13 minutes later than last year -- with the school day ending at 2:38 p.m.

Elementary school students get an extra five minutes with a starting time of 8:05 a.m. and the school day ending at 3:05 p.m. Starting and ending times for middle schools -- 8:40 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. -- will remain the same. Crossroads Academy keeps the same times, 8 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

Also, students can expect to see construction around schools this year. The new Greenbrier Middle School will open in the fall of 2000, and construction will begin on a nine-room, $1 million addition at Grovetown Elementary scheduled to open at the same time.

And for the first time in five years, Harlem High School students will begin school without portable classrooms as they take their seats in a new 11-room math and science wing. At one point, the high school had 13 portables.

The new addition allows the high school to organize the departments better.

"We have no portables on campus this year," Harlem Principal Barry Hemphill said. "It's nice to be back in the building."

Peggy Ussery covers education for The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. She can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, or ussery@augustachronicle.com.